Jamaica Knauer, the patron saint of Midwestern Hot Jazz on video (now there‘s a mouthful of Homeric epithet) very generously uploaded two more of her videos from the 2009 Bix Beiderbecke Festival on YouTube for our collective joy and enlightenment. To quote Milt Hinton, “If you don’t like this, you don’t like broccoli!”*
Here are “Bix and His Chicago Gang,” fervent and expert, captured live at Fitzgerald’s — in tuxedos, no less. They are Andy Schumm, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; Kim Cusack, clarinet; John Otto, bass sax; Paul Asaro, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Josh Duffee, drums. First, one of the affectionate songs of the late Twenties, MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS. (Cutty Cutshall, that Condon stalwart, used to call it MAHONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS.)
There are too many delightful details to absorb in one viewing, but the band does the very pleasing thing of returning to the verse several times during this performance, making the most of the possibilities of changing from verse to chorus more than once. It’s a lovely idea, now abandoned in favor of playing chorus after chorus on the theme, which can (I write this in a whisper) become monotonous. Notice also how many times one of the musicians is grinning because of something another player has just created, and you know that those smiles aren’t “counterfeited glee” for the benefit of the audience. This band rocks without raising its voice or accelerating its pace.
The second performance has nothing to apologize for, even though the source material is the tune SORRY. Jamaica had to switch from one memory card to another in mid-performance, cutting off a bit of Paul Asaro’s striding solo, but I’m so glad she caught what she did. And the gap in the middle is in itself nostalgic, reminding all of us of those radio airshots captured on 10″ 78 rpm blanks that have a chorus or two we have to imagine — while the diligent recordist tried to turn the acetate over as quickly as possible or put another blank on the turntable. Heroically done, Jamaica; romping hot jazz, O you Bixians!
And my title is more than just a Twenties and Thirties exultation, although it would do just fine on that basis: in 1933, Bing Crosby was asked to fill out a questionnaire — favorite color, music, books, and the like. When it got to “favorite expression,” that’s the one he thought of. “Yeah, man!” indeed!
*And if you don’t like broccoli, perhaps it’s because someone’s been overcooking it: try removing it from the heat when it’s still got some life in it. Late-life culinary conversions are both possible and uplifting!